The Taranga Temple- A Riot of Sculptural Delights

India is a land of diverse cultures, religions and philosophy. Although every place of worship instills a feeling of God’s existence yet each temple has its own story to tell. The architecture of a temple varies and reflects faith, belief, and devotion. A temple stands testimony to its rich historical past which reflects both the turbulence and devotion how the kings built it under what trying circumstances. One such temple is Taranga Teerth in Gujarat.

Words: Steffi Mac

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The Taranga Hills are located 20 km from Vadnagar on Aravalli range and has profound connections with Buddhism. This 12th century derasar (Jain temple), is one of the best preserved and least restored temples in Gujarat, and testament to the faith of Solanki Rajputs. It’s structure and design is part of India’s most treasured works of architecture.

Architecture
Moment one enters this magnificent Jain temple one cannot miss the 5-metre tall statue of second Jain Tirthankara Shri Ajitnath in a sitting pose. The face reflects serenity. Ajitnath, the teacher, had overcome suffering and attained beatitude which is reflected as one gets a second close look of the face.

The dancing maidens carved outside in stone express fluid movements of the damsels.

Costumes of the damsels are intricately carved on the walls of the temple and is attractive as much for its intricate designs as to the dexterity of the masons who carved it. In the words of travel writer Philip Ward, “If you thought Jainism would be too intellectual to appeal to you, let this riot of sculptural delights overwhelm you.”

The temple 50 ft long, 100 ft broad and 142 ft high nestles in the centre of the huge main square with sides measuring 230 ft. It has seven domes. On the right-hand side, there are foot-idols of Rishabha (first Tirthankara or Teaching God)) and of the 20 wandering

Bhagawans and on the left temples of Gaumukhji, the Samavasaran (the open lecture hall), and Jambudvipa or cosmological painting.

On the outer platform of the main temple there are idols of Padmavatidevi and Kumarpal Maharaja. During the last major renovation, the roofs and stone carvings on the outer walls were cleaned of grime and dust.

In 1164 AD (VS 1479), Govindbhai Shreshthi of Idar, dedicated this temple.

How the massive stones were transported through the forest and to the top of the hill is mindboggling.

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Those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God’s new Temple. They are, individually and corporately, places where heaven and earth meet

If you thought Jainism would be too intellectual to appeal to you, let this riot of sculptural delights overwhelm you.” – Philip Ward

The red interior of the temple is in strong relief to the white marble figure of Ajitnath, the second Tirthankara seated majestically in the shrine, with precious stones inlaid in marble statue even as it wears an expression of deep contentment and solititude.

The pilgrims flow begins during the full moon in Kartika and Chaitra (November and April). In the adjoining shrines, there is block of marble carved with 208 Tirthankara.

Background
Taranga is atop a three-peaked hill in the Mehsana District of Gujarat. River Rupen flows along the Taranga Hills; and river Sabarmati flows in the east.

Under instructions from renowned Jain scholar and poet Hemachandracharya,

the Solanki King Kumarpala (1145-72) after converting to Jainism laid the foundation for this monumental temple.He ruled from Patan, the capital. The temple was renovated on a big scale in the 16th century during Mughal emperor Akbar’ rule.

People and Beliefs
Taranga tirtha is considered one of the most important Shvetambar Jain temples, one of the five most important mahatirthas of the Jains.

Of the 108 places known as Siddhachal, where holy people attained enlightenment, one of the places is “Tarangir”.

Temples of such magnitude as this one are generally built at siddh kshetras or holy places where saints had attained liberation.

It is popularly believed that 35,000,000 munis, including Vardutt and Sagardutt, attained moksha here.

The two hillocks named Kotishila and Siddhashila have idols of Bhagwan Neminath and Bhagwan Mallinath which were carved in 1235 AD.

There are 14 Digambar Jain temples & one dharamshala in the foothills.

Digambar Jains settled on this isolated hill since the time of Ajitnath Bhagwan, the 2nd Jain Tirthankara.

In the words of Anglican Bishop NT Wright, “Those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God’s new Temple…. They are, individually & corporately, places where heaven & earth meet.”